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'Hard Knocks' episode 2 recap: The Life of Brian Cushing

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As the Texans get ready for their first preseason game, the focus turns to lesser-known players, and we find out just how much of a bro Brian Cushing is.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard for TV shows to immediately sustain the momentum of a promising premiere, so second episodes tend to disappoint. The Houston Texansfirst episode of Hard Knocks was a tough act to follow. It gave us a breakout performance from head coach Bill O'Brien and plenty of J.J. Watt, aka the Jennifer Lawrence of the NFL.

We also witnessed Vince Wilfork compare himself to the second-greatest basketball player of our time, though he modestly refrained from calling himself LeBron.

For episode No. 2, the main characters took more of a backseat role, appropriately enough, right as the team was readying for its first preseason game. Just as many starters and veterans are making cameo appearances in the run-up to the regular season, it was time for the rookies and players trying to make the 53-man roster to shine.

Was it as enjoyable as the premiere? Simply put: no, and that's OK. Not every episode that focuses on secondary characters can be as compelling as Better Call Saul's Mike Ehrmantraut-centric showcase or when we peeked into the mind of Brian Krakow on My So-Called Life.

But this episode still had its watercooler moments, many coming from -- for better or for worse -- another Brian: Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.

Brian Cushing is a superbro dad (and kind of a meathead)

For being a professional athlete, Cushing has a pretty lazy way of taking his two sons out in a stroller:

It's also #PeakBro, as was his response to running back Alfred Blue after the two went head-to-head in a pass-rushing drill: "First of all, you're not going to block me. Second of all, you don't want to fight me. Third of all, I'm the man."

All of this is pretty clearly part of his overconfident jock shtick. Same for his "I just don't want a girl" comment when he talked about the possibility of his wife and him having a third child. And the reason he doesn't go to Starbucks anymore:

"I used to and then I realized I wasn't a chick."

But Cushing also comes off like there's part of him that truly believes what he's saying.

Just for the fun of it, let's go over a few of the many reasons why this has been a great year for women in sports:

  • The women's national soccer team stole Americans' hearts
  • Mo'ne Davis and Melissa Mayeux showed the Jimmy Dugans of the world that you can have ballplayers who are also girls
  • Serena Williams could complete a calendar Grand Slam in a few weeks at the U.S. Open
  • Everyone is terrimpressed (terrified + impressed) by Ronda Rousey
  • Becky Hammon became the first woman to not only coach in the NBA Summer League, but also the first to win a championship
  • Nancy Lieberman, following in Hammon's path, became the NBA's second female assistant coach
  • Just this past weekend, Sarah Thomas, the NFL's first full-time female ref, and Jen Welter, the first woman to coach in the NFL, shared the field in the Cardinals-Chiefs preseason game

So, it's still a little jarring when an athlete -- whether he's trolling or not -- blithely insults half the population, many of whom are fans of the sport he plays.

To put it in terms Cushing might understand better: unchill 'tude, brah.

But hey, at least he had good advice for how Wilfork should deal with his sweaty bubble shoes.

Bill O'Brien is Professor Coachspeak

They say that those who can do and those who can't teach -- no wait, that's actually just a huge cliché, something that the Texans' head coach can teach a master class about.

He had a simple message for his players, especially the ones just entering the league: "You control the interview." His coachspeak lesson included tips like don't talk about other players and always have the most god-awful boring responses ready to go for reporters.

After a little role playing, rookies like Benardrick McKinney probably have their phones autocorrect anything they text to, "I'm working hard to be a good teammate so I can make the team better."

And now it's time to remind ourselves that O'Brien actually seems like a cool dude, terrible dance moves aside:

Rookie life in the NFL has its ups and downs

It takes time for players to acclimate to the NFL. Not every rookie can come in right away and make an immediate impact, even the ones who have the most hype surrounding them. Speaking of, we were treated to an extended montage of Jadeveon Clowney performing individual drills as he battles back from microfracture surgery. But, spoiler alert, more on him next week.

Earlier in the episode, linebacker Lynden Trail, an undrafted free agent, was unlucky enough to be the target of Mike Vrabel's ire. When Trail tried to hide the fact that he didn't know the term "ram left" -- Stan Kroenke's favorite play, hey-o -- Vrabel kicked him out of practice. Fellow rookie Carlos Thompson was there, though, to tell Trail that he can go out and get 'em next time (he's obviously been taking to O'Brien's lessons, but it's still nice to see rookies try to help each other out).

Then, third-round pick Jaelen Strong was struggling in practice, most notably with drops. The coaches knew he hadn't quite figured things out yet, but O'Brien compared him to DeAndre Hopkins, who was a little lost at the beginning of his career and through hard work eventually became the team's No. 1 wideout.

But both Trail and Strong managed to find a bit of redemption in the preseason game against the 49ers. Trail took the field (and this time wasn't kicked off Vrabel), while Strong caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from backup QB Tom Savage, which gave the Texans a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

However, no one escaped the ignoble tradition of rookie haircuts: 
rookie haircut

Breakfast for every meal

Watt and Wilfork had, if not the most fascinating conversation, at least the most accurate: Breakfast is the best meal and eating breakfast food three times a day is the dream.

Ron Swanson approved, gentlemen.

Hoyer vs. Mallett is still even and still dull as hell

Both played well in the preseason game -- Hoyer led the team to a touchdown on the opening drive and Mallett completed all but one pass. O'Brien, of course, said after the game that both "went out there and played consistently and with poise." The quarterback battle, however, remains an energy suck whenever it takes centerstage.

At this point, it could be Hoyer's job to lose simply because Mallett's teammates don't appear to like him that much:

Mallett huddle

But maybe one guy will finally take the lead when the Texans host the Broncos, and former head coach Gary Kubiak, in their second preseason game this week.


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